Having debuted in its current generation in 2016, the BMW 7 Series has now reached its planned midlife update, or Life Cycle Impulse (no, really) in BMW-speak.
While most brands offer a small change to lights or bumpers in a way that appeals to trainspotters mostly, BMW has been bolder. Much bolder. It's given the 2020 BMW 750i xDrive you see here an unmissable new face.
Luxury goods, be they automobiles or otherwise, now trade in conspicuous identifiers. For some, the lure of all-over-printed Louis Vuitton luggage or the ever-increasing horse logo on a Ralph Lauren shirt is barely conspicuous enough.
Whereas the pre-update 7 Series wore one of the largest grilles in BMW history, the newest version ups the game yet again. It’s a divisive move, no doubt, but one that speaks more to the target market than perhaps industry onlookers who offer opinions in lieu of ownership experience.
With that being the case, you can make up your own mind about the fresh face on the 750i. I’ll admit it’s not my cup of tea, but it certainly doesn’t look out of place, and manages to be more harmonious than the face of rivals like the Audi A8 or Lexus LS.
Bigger and more important LCI changes centre on the addition of all-wheel drive to the 750i’s specification list. Previously, only the ultra-rare M760Li came with all-paw traction in Australia.
For the 2020 model year, the V8-powered 750i adds BMW’s xDrive system – the new drivetrain layout brings a price bump of $3000 along with it, for a list price starting from $272,900. Official fuel consumption also rises from 8.3 litres per 100km to 10.1L/100km, while on test we struck a still decent 12.3L/100km.
Along with the added xDrive all-wheel drive and bold new grille, the 7 Series range also gets new front-end sheet metal including a taller bonnet, new front guards, slimmer headlights, revised bumpers front and rear, and new tail-lights with illumination that reaches from side to side.
Equipment in the 750i xDrive is bolstered by the addition of anti-roll stabilisation, 20-inch polished alloy wheels, night-vision camera and BMW’s latest-generation iDrive infotainment system (including ‘Hey BMW’ conversational commands), plus a new all-digital instrument cluster – ditching the chrome-ringed and more traditional look of the old digital display.
Engine outputs are also tweaked, up from 330kW and 650Nm to a more potent 390kW and 750Nm from a revised version of BMW’s 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8. As before, the 750i retains an eight-speed torque converter automatic, while the claimed 0–100km/h sprint drops by a substantial 0.7 seconds for a 4.0-second dash.
Muscular though it may be, the 750i isn’t all about turning times. Instead, rich, cosseting luxury is a hallmark of the segment and – perhaps in the past – an area BMW had ground to make up.
That’s not the case with the latest generation, however, and adding in touches for the newest update only further cements the 750i’s credentials as a rival to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (in this case, the S560 in particular).
The list of standard equipment goes on and on. Just a few of the range-wide highlights include four-zone climate control with ionising and fragrance functions, nappa leather upholstery (richly padded and quilted, too, no less), heated and cooled front seats, heated front door armrests, centre console and steering wheel, rear sunblinds, and soft-close doors.
At least, that’s part of the story. You’ll also find a large colour head-up display, Design Pure Excellence nappa leather on the dash and doors, ‘Laserlight’ headlights with adaptive control and auto high beam, LED ambient lighting (although the six-colour options pale in comparison to Benz’s 64-colour animated light show), adaptive air suspension, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, automatic speed-limit assist, steering and lane assist, front and rear cross-traffic alert, and a full suite of collision avoidance and monitoring tech.
With the ever-moving promise of autonomous driving capabilities ‘just around the corner’, the 7 manages a decent swathe of self-driving smarts implemented in an easy-to-use package. Not enough to take full control, but able to maintain lane position, take the wheel for a few seconds at a time, and generally fill in driver input gaps in a smooth, calm, and predictable way.
If you’re more intent on driving yourself, the 750i straddles the line between isolative and involving rather convincingly. Make no mistake, it is – first and foremost – a limousine, meaning soft-edged ride, low levels of noise, and every attempt possible to distance occupants from any kind of intrusion.
The V8 engine note is incredibly faint, despite an exhaust flap to deliver an “appropriate noise” and engine response is docile. There’s a rolling wave of torque to bring the 750i up to speed promptly and unflappably. There’s no straining, no heaving, and no signs that the 4.4-litre V8 is ever under duress.
While the eight-speed automatic is shared with other automakers, the shift programming is BMW’s own. It’s fluent and well judged with smarts, including the use of topographical map data to preemptively select the right gear, and cleverly integrated in such a way that you simply can’t tell.
You can select from drive modes: Comfort is the default or there’s also a Comfort Plus mode that transforms the adaptive air suspension from smooth to whipped-butter smooth. Perhaps a little ironically, though, on truly terrible surfaces it tends to bob about queasily, making the more controlled Comfort setting a better bet.
As a means of prioritising efficiency, the xDrive all-wheel-drive system disconnects the front axle until it determines additional traction is required. Front-wheel assistance is seamless as it comes into play, with the upside being no juddering or crabbing from the front end at low speeds.
For passengers, the 7 Series experience is even better than it is for the driver. Sit back, relax and soak into the plush, comfortable, softly trimmed seats. Enjoy the quiet and watch the scenery stream effortlessly by.
There’s no long-wheelbase option for the 750i, though there is an extended version on either side with the 740Li and M760Li. Rear-seat spaciousness is impacted as a result. It’s not that the 750i is small, but there’s not the kind of 'stretch out and wriggle your toes' leg room you might expect in a car with a length of over five metres.
It’s a perplexion made all the more apparent with the optional reclining rear seat as fitted to this car. Why have the ability to set a deeply reclined seat and no place to fit your feet and legs? It’ll add $15,100 to your order for the full heated, cooled, reclining and massage package, too.
In reality, the short-wheelbase 750i is a driver's car. A commanding, powerful and hedonistic treat on wheels for driver and passenger. It can still serve adult rear passengers exceptionally well, but isn’t primarily devised for them.
If your family is still not at a full-sized stage of life, the accommodation would certainly be less of an issue.
Be that as it may, a lift-out touchscreen tablet embedded in the centre armrest means the chauffeured can still command the interior, without the need to trouble the driver to adjust window shades, interior lighting, infotainment and more.
BMW has thickened up the door glass, and replaced the power winder motors with quieter units, compared to last year's model to make things all the more peaceful. It’s hard to detect any tangible benefit without putting two side-by-side, but it certainly is peaceful inside.
The boot can hold up to 515L of luggage, which is certainly a handy size, although like the back seat perhaps isn’t a match internally for what external dimensions might suggest. Options and accessories can reduce this figure, too, depending on how you specify your 750i.
Owners are covered by what is now an industry-minimum three-year warranty, with no kilometre limit for private buyers or a 200,000km cap for commercially used vehicles.
Pre-paid servicing is available through BMW Service Inclusive, with a five-year/80,000km basic package for all scheduled services including filters and fluids starting at $2162, or the inclusive plan that adds wipers, brake discs and rotors from $4866.
As you would expect, the 750i simply doesn’t put a foot wrong. It offers power on demand, but is reserved enough to not outwardly boast about its ability. Every surface and every control feels solidly hewn and well weighted.
While Mercedes-Benz has taken a more brash approach inside, complete with an inbuilt Vegas light show, BMW has kept things more sedate and elegant. From the outside, however, BMW has opted for a more confronting design direction.
It’s a look that will either draw you in, or keep you at bay. It’s a clear signal of intent in a hard-fought segment that BMW clearly wants to dominate. Given our time with the 750i, it seems BMW may well have a chance to.
Ultimately, the BMW 750i xDrive excels as a sumptuously plush and comfortable place to while away hours behind the wheel, be that as an oasis of calm in active city streets or as a mile-devouring cross-country touring sedan.